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SILER CITY — Town officials continue to review proposals from Mountaire, the Delaware-based company with a large poultry processing plant near downtown, on its request for permanent closure of E. Third Street.
Mountaire originally requested a permanent closure of the road last year. At the time, the road had already been closed an extensive period of time for the plant’s construction. Last November, residents and businesses on Third Street began asking the town when the street would be reopened, only to learn that Mountaire had requested a permanent closure of the road, noting concerns about safety and traffic flow. Business owners by and large raised concerns about closing a street that serves as a major artery into downtown.
While E. Third Street is under the authority of the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, the department would be unlikely to approve closing the road permanently without the support of the town. Siler City’s board of commissioners decided late last year to wait to consider Mountaire’s request until the plant was operational. The board determined that it felt it best to study the traffic patterns and impacts over a period of several months once the plant was operating at full steam.
As the company continues to press for the closure, the town board of commissioners has appeared disinclined to agree. For nearly a year, the company and town staff have been reviewing plans and exchanging concerns. The most recent iteration of the closure plan includes closing portions of East Third to North Avenue, then extend Fifth Street down from North Avenue to create a new connection to East Third so that the road will still have access to U.S. Hwy. 64.
Last month, the town’s review committee — which includes the town manager, planning director, public works director and the chiefs of both the police and fire departments — sent additional comments and requested clarification on the most recent proposal. Initial concerns were delays to emergency response times as well as more details images and graphics of the specific design.
A letter to Mountaire, dated Oct. 24, notes that all staff concerns would need to be addressed before it would ever be ready to be proposed to Siler City’s board of commissioners. According to Siler City Planning Director Jack Meadows, once there are no further questions or comments from town or NCDOT staff, then the town staff will submit the request to Town Manager Roy Lynch to be placed on the agenda for the board of commissioners to review. The board would then “consider adopting of a resolution declaring the town’s intent to close the subject street which would trigger a public hearing.
Notice of that hearing would be published for four consecutive weeks prior and letters will be sent via certified mail to all property owners “adjoining the street.” In addition, Meadows notes the town would “prominently post a notice of closing and public hearing in at least two places.”
After the public hearing, the board will consider whether the road closure is “not contrary to the public interest or to the rights of individuals owning property abutting or in the vicinity of the closure” and whether it will interfere with ingress and egress. If the proposal eventually makes it to the board, it is still uncertain as to how the commissioners will decide to vote. However, Meadows notes that “persons aggrieved by the closing may appeal the order to the General Court of Justice within 30 days after its adoption.”
Reporter Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.